This was a chrysalis weekend, and I am uncertain of the next stage. Years ago, I bought my daughter a butterfly net. She visited a relative near a women's prison, and saw a bear running through the woods. I worked at a college and met an inmate at that prison obsessed with serial killers, looking to continue her education. I grew up in Texas, where strangers and fights were friendly alike. We turned up moth pupae digging for earthworms. We baited them onto hooks, and dropped them into the little streams a few miles down the road. I broke my leg last year fishing. My son broke his arm, several weeks back, in the snow, going too fast down the hillside.
His first cast was soft and temporary. Then there was another, solid and semi-permanent. His armed emerged from this withered and weakened, and is now in one final cast, lighter and leaner. I arranged a volunteer day for him, for the both of us. He wants to apply for a summer job working on an ecology crew, so I signed us up for a local prairie restoration project. He rolled his eyes and moped, and I yelled at him and fumed. We woke in the morning and picked up breakfast. There was ice on the windshield.
There was ice on the slopes, the day before, in the shadows of the pines. I fell, and then I didn't. I drank beer by myself in the lodge. I ate sandwiches and chewed tobacco on the chairlift. I fell, and then I didn't.
On the drive to the prairie, I have him read the directions. He asks me why we don't switch to the metric system. And kilometers to go before I sleep? Miles make for better meter. Because we're poets at heart. I didn't realize poets started so many wars. We are poet warriors. There is no excuse, really.
We burn piles of brush, and sit on the outside of the group of volunteers. They all know each other. We'll break the ice, I say. It takes time. Soon they are asking him how he broke his arm. Then all of us are sharing the parts we've broken. We eat lunch, and one of the older volunteers shows me a photo of a Taylor's Checkerspot. They are reared at the local women's prison. Then the chyrsalises are placed out here. They should emerge in the next three weeks. We released 3,500. Maybe 5% will make it.
In the office, when no one is looking, I pocket a bottle of water for my son. They are probably meant for us, so this is petit thievery, at best. My father once stole a Matchbox car for me at a gas station. It was such a sweet and despicable act, the last really that I remember before he rampaged through our apartment and disappeared forever after.
In the field, we alternate pulling Scotch Broom and planting fescue. We walk to a burnt fir to see a pair of western bluebirds, trying our best not to trample the camas sprouts. My son talks about God and feminism and the metric system. The only thing I teach him is that the plural of octopus is octopodes. Chrysalis would be chrysalides. Some words are Greek and others are just hard to understand. Metamorphosis. Incarceration. Redemption.
Do you know that we loved to learn in secret? I want to ask. I am proud of you and I love you, and I want you to know that. When we were kids, our parents sent us to our rooms during love scenes. We slipped into empty houses and played spin the bottle in the dark. We mocked public displays of affection without mercy. We whispered. We kept our thoughts bottled up until it all came gushing forth underneath street-lit trees years too late.
I dreamt the world was shaking last night. When I worked at that college all those years ago, my office trembled for 45 seconds. Some people theorize that the Mima Mounds were formed from seismic activity. When we were kids, we were broke, from a broken home, hoping for our big break. This must be here.